Exotic Spectacles and the Global Context of German Anthropology

in Anthropology and Antihumanism in Imperial Germany

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2001 | ISBN: 9780226983417
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226983462 | DOI:
Exotic Spectacles and the Global Context of German Anthropology

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In the years before World War I, the majority of encounters between German anthropologists and the people they studied occurred in Germany, in circuses, panopticons, and zoos. To dismiss science of this sort as “armchair anthropology,” as groundless speculation based on unreliable sources, would be to ignore the foundations of anthropology in a global culture of imperialism and in the popular culture of exotic spectacles. Although anthropologists themselves rarely conducted research abroad, they did study individuals from around the world who traveled to Europe to perform in popular ethnographic shows, or Völkerschauen. Performers, however, were not merely shaped according to anthropological expectations; they often came to Europe with personal and political agendas that sometimes led to conflicts with anthropologists. They often disrupted—and thereby illuminated—the conceptual and political structures presupposed by anthropology.

Keywords: German anthropology; imperialism; ethnography; performers; political structures; exotic performances

Chapter.  7806 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Anthropology

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